In my previous post, I posted a picture of the bottle gourd plant that was growing. Since then, it is not only growing but taking everything down that is in its path :). I always knew bottle gourd was an avid grower but seeing it is believing it. We had this plant growing up and we would get tired of distributing all the produce to the neighbors, relatives and acquaintances, strangers :). We had so much produce that everyone in our house started to hate(read loathe) this vegetable. But alas, all that changed when I came to the U.S. As with many things, I started appreciating this vegetable more than I ever did in my entire life.
I remember my mom would make a lot of different dishes with the sorakaya/bottle gourd - sorakaya paluposina koora, sorakaya dappalam, sorakaya sambhar, sorakaya pottu pachadi, sorakaya pappu, sorakaya halwa, sorakaya kofta, sorakaya payasam even! You name it and it was done with this vegetable. We would even pick the seeds from a very mature bottle gourd and fire roast and eat 'em! Wow, that does bring back a flood of memories! Depending on how many of these I get this season, I plan to try all the dishes my mom used to make with it, time permitting.
After publishing my previous post, I have gotten so many inquiries about how I planted the garden, how to maintain it etc. So I thought I would do a quick write-up of my "bottle gourd growing adventures"! About 3 months ago, a friend of mine gave me about 7-8 seeds and I planted the seeds in disposable water glasses (with a hole cut in the middle) in a soil-less starter medium (I used Jiffy). In about 4-5 days, almost all the seeds I planted germinated except for one/two. I then babied them for about 2-3 weeks inside with artificial lighting until they got the first two leaves and one true leaf. I think by this time, I only had about 5 plants that survived. The rest didn't make it. I then took them outside and planted them then babied them some more. After yet another couple of weeks, I only had about 3 plants left (which is what I have now). The initial growth felt like it took for ever. After the plant became well established, there was no stopping it. It keeps putting on new leaves overnight. It is truly an amazing experience to watch it grow.
Then one of my other friends told me that bottle gourd actually produces two types of flowers - male and female. And get this, they need to be "pollinated" for the baby bottle gourd to be born. She said that if there are bees in the vicinity there is no need for the hand pollination. When the flowers first started appearing, I could only see one type of flower. I had no idea if that was a female/male flower and if I needed to pollinate them. Then I did what any normal person would do - I googled! I found resources that had pictures of how a female flower looked like versus a male flower. I also read that female flowers come up about a week-ten days after the male flowers start blooming. I breathed a sigh of relief and would go out each evening hunting for the female flowers :). Then finally one day, I saw two female buds and was waiting for them to bloom so I could pollinate them. I was able to pollinate one of the females, but the other female had bloomed when we were out one night and I never had a chance to pollinate that. So, the "non-pollinated" shriveled up and started dying where as the pollinated one, started growing. It took about 8 days for the 2 inch fruit that was on the back of the flower to turn into a 11/2 feet gourd. So as of tonight, I now have my very first homegrown bottle gourd in the U.S. It is amazing how much joy and content such small things bring to life.
I am planning on going down the list and making the sorakaya paluposina koora with the very first gourd.